Understanding the evolved consumer in a digital decade

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be far more than just a health crisis; it has unpredictably and fundamentally changed the world as we know it. The retail landscape has vastly transformed over the past decade, primarily due to the rapid rise of e-commerce. Entire business models are becoming obsolete and customers are increasingly demanding customised and curated experiences.

Thus, in this day and age, providing a consistent omnichannel experience can be extremely pivotal. Let’s explore how.

The formation of new habits and lifestyles

​​Forced to adapt to a new normal, people are not only living and working differently, but are also having differing attitudes, motivations, and purchasing habits – putting supply chains to the test.

In a time like this, consumer priorities have changed to become more centred around personal health. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that the need for basic necessities takes precedence, often sending non-essential categories to slump. However, this shift has not only altered how and why people shop – but where they shop. With incessant media coverage on pandemic-related issues, the level of perceived risk has increased greatly, making consumers fearful of going to traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

According to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, global e-commerce sales in 2022 jumped by 22% due to the rise in safe distancing measures, demand for online goods, and increased personal safety concerns. Closer to home, 6 in 10 existing Southeast Asia users of groceries and food delivery increased usage and spending versus pre-pandemic times, according to the e-Conomy SEA 2021 report by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company.

Adding yet another twist to modern-day shopping behaviour, consumers are now not only choosing to undertake consolidated shopping trips to limit leaving their house and time spent in-store, but are also doing more “pre-store” research and planning. The growth in e-commerce capabilities has given consumers a way to bounce between stores and their mobile devices – an integral part of their purchase journey. This has left retailers scrambling to meet ever-evolving customer needs to remain relevant and to keep their products visible digitally.

Traditional supply chain is not built for the new normal

With consumer behaviour spinning in unprecedented ways, the retail industry has been forced to reshape in real time and speed up the adoption of digital technology by several years. However, amidst this change and uncertainty, there is a silver lining – opportunity.

More than ever before, organisations should address this shift as well as adapt to new consumer behaviours and preferences; failure to do so can quickly equate to poor customer service. With an agile mindset, they will not only be able to operate and progress in response to new retail opportunities, but also the roadblocks that arise due to the continued ramifications of COVID-19.

With so much movement around having personalised and curated customer experience, businesses should make it a priority to adopt a granular perspective of the consumer’s new lifestyle pattern. For example, which channels they should serve, and how these channels can aid in having a seamless experience. 

Embracing the change from brick to click

While understanding evolving consumer behaviour is a big step forward, businesses need to do more than just that – they need to meet customers at their fingertips. By pairing a robust enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with an omnichannel strategy, businesses will not only stay competitive, but will be able to further improve customer experience by providing more channels for purchase.

ERP systems are fundamental in a prospering business as they bring processes together and connect every aspect of the organisation, allowing effective communication both internally, as well as with those outside the organisation, most importantly with customers. All this, in time, will drive sales and traffic, as well as build customer relationships on a deeper, more personal level.

While e-commerce is widely known to be rising post-pandemic, it is important for retailers to note that in-store shopping should not be neglected. Every touchpoint, whether offline or online, has always been something people look for throughout their shopping experience. Hence, rather than focusing on one or the other, businesses should leverage these two channels and put emphasis on how to better integrate the two. Therefore, it is absolutely vital to reimagine and design consumer purchasing flow lines in order to better support both new lifestyle consumer patterns, as well as still sustaining footfall in physical stores, though conventional sales methods now come with some limitations.

The enduring impact of living in a COVID-centric world has affected the financial decisions of most of us, as well as spending patterns and lifestyle choices. From a business perspective, retailers will need to carefully monitor and analyse how to continually enhance the omnichannel shopping experience, as consumers will always want a more personalised, relevant, and consistent journey across all channels. In doing so, customer spending, loyalty and confidence in your brand will continue to see a sustainable increase, improving business outcomes over the short-to-medium term.